President Trump summoned an unusual United Nations Security Council meeting at the White House on Monday, fueling rumors that the United States is about to formally leave the organization.
Earlier this year, Trump condemned the U.N. as one of the most “corrupt” organizations on earth, suggesting that he would look seriously at whether it was still in America’s interest to remain a member of the international body.
“The United States … remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel. No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item. How is that a sensible priority?” Trump said last March.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia. There are 15 members of the group — but the others, right now including Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay are non-voting members.
Haley will be attending before the group returns to New York for scheduled Security Council meetings on Tuesday.
The president’s budget outline proposed deep cuts in the U.S. contribution to the UN, which could dramatically impair its peacekeeping functions around the world.
Other high profile UN functions include refugee relief and vetting of refugee visa applicants to the U.S, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna — the weapons inspectors who monitor Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.
Diplomatic sources told NBC News the ambassadors are expecting to have coffee at Blair House — also known as the The President’s Guest House — with members of Congress Monday morning and then go to the White House to meet with the President and have lunch.
North Korea will inevitably be a major point of discussion.
China abstained on a UN resolution last week condemning the latest missile test — instead of vetoing it — a symbolic gesture. But Beijing has so far resisted tougher action.
The Trump administration could unilaterally impose much tougher banking sanctions against North Korea if it wanted to — similar to the Obama administration’s past sanctions on Iran — for instance blocking all foreign banks who deal with North Korea from trading in dollars or banking in the U.S. That would be a direct hit on China’s financing of the regime in Pyongyang.
So far, however, the Trump White House has not chosen that route but has repeatedly said “all options are on the table,” implying military action was possible.
Many experts, including former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have discounted the viability of preemptive military strikes given the proximity of millions of people in Seoul and 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, all within artillery range of North Korea if it were to retaliate.
This all comes as an American citizen, a Korean-American accounting instructor, was detained Sunday at the airport in Pyongyang while trying to leave the country after having been there for a month.
The State Department has reached out to Sweden’s embassy, the protectorate for the U.S. in North Korea, to try to obtain his release.